Clearance shopping a fine art

I can smell it a mile away. I know how to search high and low for my prey.

Every store and each rack, end cap, special shelf -– none are safe from my acute skill. Fifty percent off? Pbfft, child’s play. Seventy-five percent might pique my interest. But honestly, I won’t turn my head until I see that coveted 90 percent discount. In case you didn’t know, I am a clearance killer.

An art form that requires patience, clearance shopping isn’t for those with an itchy spending finger. The carefully honed skill of allowing a deal to pass through your fingers demands the utmost self-control. An able shopper knows which deals will yield the highest return and of course stores items with care in a place where they can actually be found when needed. Don’t even get me started on the receipt victory dance, carefully choreographed to let other shoppers know your savvy purchasing prowess.

Today? Today I share with you my most exclusive tips to help you learn the ways of clearance domination so you too can rule supreme and never pay retail again.

Maximize holiday seasons

The best times to boost your clearance street cred occur post holiday or a particular shopping season. Less than 24 hours after you celebrate the best day of the year, prices plummet causing your opportunities for bargains to sky-rocket.

Side-rant: How manipulated are we by marketing campaigns that we will pay twice the price for the same items a day before?

Be sure you make the most of these seasonal sales. My list of items you should always wait to buy on clearance include but are not limited to: Christmas cards, Christmas trees, wrapping paper, gift baskets with lotions and soaps, Valentines, Easter egg kits, backpacks and lunch boxes, school supplies, Halloween costumes, cute seasonal T-shirts and craft items.

shelf life, practical items

Can we have a moment of brief honesty? It doesn’t matter if the paper towels you’re using have scarecrows on them and the month is June. Each year, more and more practical items roll out in holiday theme, enticing consumers to pay more due to the “adorable” factor. You can find tableware, paper towels, tissues, even toothpaste and more to coordinate with the current month of the year. It doesn’t matter if you’re wiping your counter top off with snowmen in August or cute hearts during December. When you can pick up practical items at a fraction of their plain partners’ price, do it.

Be sure you think through to the next season, too. Candies and baking items can often be used for the next holiday. Non-perishable items or those with a long shelf life can even be stored away until the next calendar year.

pair with coupons

Each time you shop, you should make it your job to at least take a quick spin through the clearance aisle. You also want to stretch your dollars even further by discovering if there are coupons to pair with the current sale.

Stuff on sale is still stuff

While I will happily sing the praises of clearance deals as long as the days of my life will allow, I can’t close without issuing a word of warning. Unless you truly need the item, don’t buy it. Scoring great deals can become addictive and in the end sink your bottom line. You must have a purpose for every purchase.

In “Slaying the Debt Dragon,” I shared the story of a set of 19-cent place mats I passed up while we were in the pursuit of paying off $127,482.30 in debt. Most people would scoff at passing on merchandise for less than a dollar. However, I already owned awesome place mats. I didn’t need new ones. And I knew that if I could say no to 19 cents, I could say no to $1.90 and $19 and $190 and $1,900 — you get the point.

If it’s not a need, slowly step away from the discount. It’s not worth it.

Clearance shoppers unite. We are a band of brothers and sisters who love to tell people just how little we paid when they compliment our latest find. Using smart strategies stretches your dollars and budgets just a little bit further. That kind of sale domination always pays in the end.